Infertility is when a couple cannot conceive despite having regular unprotected sex. About 85% of couples will conceive naturally within one year if they have regular unprotected sex.
However, it is estimated that about one in six couples will have difficulty conceiving. There are many different causes of infertility.
In one third of cases, infertility will be related to male factors. In another third it will be due to female factors and the remaining third is due to a combination of male and female factors. Some of the most common causes for men and women are listed below.
The decision of when to seek help is often a difficult one but we would recommend visiting your GP if you have been trying to conceive for more than a year. If you are over the age of 35 or have known fertility problems you should contact your GP even sooner. Your GP will be able to carry out investigations for some of the most common causes of infertility and will be able to suggest treatments and lifestyle changes that may help.
If your GP recommends that you see a fertility specialist, it may be that fertility treatment such as IVF or IUI are your best course of action. Our Consultants can provide inward referral to these services at specialist centres.
Reasons for infertility in women:
- Unexplained infertility
- Ovulatory disorder (various causes which include polycystic ovary syndrome, hyperprolactinaemia, excess exercise / weight related, premature menopause etc)
- Tubal disease (blockage of fallopian tubes due to infection, previous pelvic surgery, endometriosis etc)
- Age (Fertility commonly declines from around 35 years of age)
Reasons for infertility in men:
- Sperm disorder (low sperm count, no sperm, slow moving (motility) or abnormally shaped sperm (morphology).
- Genetic condition (for example cystic fibrosis)
- Testicular problems (Following injury, infection, scarring from surgery, a naturally occurring defect or undescended testicles)
- Blockage in vas deferens – the ducts that carry sperm from the testes to the urethra. This can stop sperm appearing in your ejaculate
- Psychosexual (premature ejaculation or failure to ejaculate)
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking, recreational drug use and obesity can affect sperm quality.